Agamon Emek Hefer Park Inaugurated

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

A Rest Stop for Migrating Birds in Central Israel

In the heart of the fields of Emek Hefer, near the Alexander River, Agamon Hefer was inaugurated – a refuge for birds and an attraction for nature lovers. The park, which was created with the support of Cyngiser family of Calgary, the Vickar family of Winnipeg and other Friends of JNF Canada, includes an artificial lake, wooden decks, hidden observation points, walking trails and new trees that were planted around the lake. Future plans include the building of a new entrance bridge and paving a trail that will be accessible to people with limited movement.

 

The pelicans have already discovered the new park, and with a little luck, one can run into large flocks of these impressive birds here, along with loons, coots, egrettas and many other birds and mammals that inhabit the lake.

“It’s very moving to stand here on the hill and to see the beauty of nature before our very eyes,” said Rani Eidan, Mayor of the Emek Hefer Regional Council. “We have created a wonderful community and amazing agriculture here, and recently, an amazing environment also, in order to pay back some of our debt to nature.”

In the past, Emek Hefer was home to natural swamps that provided a habitat for a great deal of flora and fauna. The pioneers who settled the area almost one hundred years ago drained the swamps and developed communities and agriculture. At the spot where the new park is now located, there used to be fish breeding pools that were owned by Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh. The pools were abandoned, and the site became neglected and deserted. Now, it is a beautiful park that is a paradise for both birds and humans.

“There’s no need to describe the wonderful park that we’ve created here in words, because a sight like this is worth a million words, “ said Nissim Alon, CEO of the Sharon Drainage and Streams Authority. “No one is exempt from protecting nature. We try to manage nature in a suitable manner, in order to ensure that there will always be green spaces along the stream banks, for the benefit of the citizens of Israel.”

The park spreads out over an area of about 90 acres, most of which is covered by a large lake with a storage capacity of about 300,000 cubic meters of water. The varying depths of the lake meet the needs of a variety of birds. The bicycle trails and walking paths that were developed over past years make the site accessible to visitors.

The inauguration ceremony for the park was held for the local community, and in the future, a ceremony with the donors and their families will also take place.

Nechama Weis, former President of JNF Calgary in Canada, participated in the ceremony. In her remarks, she emphasized the bond with the donors, the Cyngiser family of Calgary, who committed themselves to turning the vision into a reality, together with the participants at the Negev Dinner held in the family’s honor. She noted that Sid and Bronia Cyngiser are Holocaust survivors who devote their lives to preserving the memory of the Holocaust and to the education of the younger generation.

The Vickar family of Winnipeg also supported this important project, which includes the scenic lookout that was built at the site.

“The children and grandchildren of families who participated in redeeming the land in the 1920s are contributing today to develop the same region,” Weis said. “The task of our generation is to protect the environment in order to ensure that our children and grandchildren will also be able to enjoy nature.”

KKL-JNF was represented at the ceremony by Ze’ev Kedem, Director of the KKL-JNF Fundraising Division. “KKL-JNF is an organization that belongs to the entire Jewish people, and the connection with the Jewish communities in Canada is heartwarming,” Kedem said. “One billion birds fly through Israel every year. KKL-JNF invests a lot of resources in creating birdwatching parks throughout Israel, from Eilat in the south to the Hula Lake in the north.”

Kedem expressed his certainty that the new park would not only be beneficial for the migrating birds who need a filling station on their journey, but that it would also become a tourist attraction that will contribute towards creating new employment opportunities for local residents.

In addition to KKL-JNF and JNF Canada, the Emek Hefer Regional Council, the Sharon Drainage and Streams Authority, the Israel Land Authority, Kibbitz Ein Hahoresh and the Ministry of Environmental Protection are also partners to this project.

Keren Friedman entertained the audience with song, accompanied by a guitar. The ceremony was moderated by Haim Altmann, spokesperson of the Emek Hefer Regional Council. “You need a lot of vision and faith to transform a neglected site into a beautiful and delightful natural attraction,” he said.

Eli Dalal, Vice-Mayor of Netanya, spoke on behalf of the local authorities that are members of the Drainage Authority. “The dedication of the park is an important step towards preserving environmental values and connecting to nature,” he said. Eldad Shalem, Vice Mayor of the Emek Hefer Regional Council, described the new trail, which is expected to attract additional visitors to the region.

Yaron Charka, KKL-JNF Chief Ornithologist, explained that it’s very important to develop refuge sites for birds specifically in the heart of bustling urban regions. “This is an opportunity to connect people to the beauty of the nature near their homes in central Israel. The link between the birds’ welfare and people getting to know about nature is the key to ensuring the sustainable ecological fabric that Israel so needs in the 21st century.”

Participants at the ceremony also included Eyal Amrami, a member of nearby Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh. “Since I was a child I have been walking around the fields here, and I am connected to this area with all my heart and soul,” he said. “At a time where building is happening all around us, it’s especially important to protect every green nature corner.”